IC 4603: Reflection Nebula in Ophiuchius

IC 4603: Reflection Nebula in Ophiuchius


Perihelion Approaches (desktop/laptop)Click t…

Perihelion Approaches (desktop/laptop)

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Breaking data records bit by bit

CERN – European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

Dec. 15, 2017

Image above: Magnetic tapes, retrieved by robotic arms, are used for long-term storage (Image: Julian Ordan/CERN).

This year CERN’s data centre broke its own record, when it collected more data than ever before.

During October 2017, the data centre stored the colossal amount of 12.3 petabytes of data. To put this in context, one petabyte is equivalent to the storage capacity of around 15,000 64GB smartphones. Most of this data come from the Large Hadron Collider’s experiments, so this record is a direct result of the outstanding LHC performance, the rest is made up of data from other experiments and backups.

“For the last ten years, the data volume stored on tape at CERN has been growing at an almost exponential rate. By the end of June we had already passed a data storage milestone, with a total of 200 petabytes of data permanently archived on tape,” explains German Cancio, who leads the tape, archive & backups storage section in CERN’s IT department.

The CERN data centre is at the heart of the Organization’s infrastructure. Here data from every experiment at CERN is collected, the first stage in reconstructing that data is performed, and copies of all the experiments’ data are archived to long-term tape storage.

Most of the data collected at CERN will be stored forever, the physics data is so valuable that it will never be deleted and needs to be preserved for future generations of physicists.

“An important characteristic of the CERN data archive is its longevity,” Cancio adds. “Even after an experiment ends all recorded data has to remain available for at least 20 years, but usually longer. Some of the archive files produced by previous CERN experiments have been migrated across different hardware, software and media generations for over 30 years. For archives like CERN’s, that do not only preserve existing data but also continue to grow, our data preservation is particularly challenging.”

While tapes may sound like an outdated mode of storage, they are actually the most reliable and cost-effective technology for large-scale archiving of data, and have always been used in this field. One copy of data on a tape is considered much more reliable than the same copy on a disk.

CERN currently manages the largest scientific data archive in the High Energy Physics (HEP) domain and keeps innovating in data storage,” concludes Cancio.


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.

Related links:

CERN’s data centre:

Outstanding LHC performance:

Data storage milestone:

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Harriet Jarlett.

Best regards,
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PARC to Partner with Commercial Space Leader t…

Palo Alto, CA (SPX) Dec 14, 2017

PARC, a Xerox company, has announced a partnership with Blue Origin to enhance awareness and interest in the vast possibilities made possible by conducting R and D in space.

The partnership will leverage PARC’s expertise in technology innovation and Blue Origin’s reusable suborbital rocket, New Shepard, to push new frontiers in four areas of technology R and D: advanced manufacturing, ener
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Mars upside down

ESA – Mars Express Mission patch.

14 December 2017

Mars Express

Which way is up in space? Planets are usually shown with the north pole at the top and the south pole at the bottom. In this remarkable image taken by ESA’s Mars Express, the Red Planet is seen with north at the bottom, and the equator at the top.

The image was taken on 19 June for calibrating the high-resolution stereo camera, while Mars Express was flying from north to south. The camera’s nine channels – one downward-pointing, four colour and four stereo – panned over the surface to record a large area with the same illumination conditions. At the same time, the camera was shifted to the horizon, instead of just pointing to the surface as in routine imaging.

North to south

The result is this rare wide-angle view of the planet, with the illuminated horizon near the equator at the top of the image, and the shadowed north pole at the bottom.

The northern polar cap was composed of water ice and dust at the time of imaging, at the beginning of spring. The carbon dioxide ice present in winter had already evaporated from the solid form to a gas. Similarly, water-ice also evaporates, injecting a large amount of water into the atmosphere that is circulated to the south by atmospheric motions. When the seasons change back, carbon dioxide frost and water-ice build up again. 

Panning south, the view soaks up sights of some of the planet’s largest volcanoes in the Tharsis region. Tharsis covers an area larger than Europe, and rises some 5 km above the planet’s average elevation, with volcanoes towering 10–22 km in height.

The largest volcanic giant, Olympus Mons, is out of view in this scene, leaving Alba Mons to take centre stage in the top half of the image, with a diameter of more than 1000 km.

Mars global context

Alba Mons lies at the edge of the Tharsis uplift, and a number of parallel linear features can be seen around it, their formation tied to the tectonic stresses of the Tharsis bulge. As the region swelled with magma in the planet’s first billion years of history the crust was stretched apart. Later, when subsurface magma chambers were discharged, subsidence of the crust also generated fractures.

Further towards the horizon, the 15 km-high Ascraeus Mons comes into view, on this occasion covered by hazy clouds.

Thin layers of clouds can also be seen several tens of kilometres above the horizon.

Mars topography

Other volcanoes can also be seen to the left of Ascraeus Mons, including Uranius Mons, Ceraunius Tholus and Tharsis Tholus.

Although average in size by martian standards, with diameters between about 60 km and 150 km, and towering between about 5 km and 8 km above the surrounding terrain, they rival many of Earth’s volcanoes: Mauna Kea is the tallest volcano on Earth at 10 km when measured from its oceanic base to summit, with only 4200 m above sea level.

Related links:

Mars Express:

Mars Express overview:

Mars Express in-depth:

ESA Planetary Science archive (PSA):

High Resolution Stereo Camera:

HRSC data viewer:

Behind the lens…

Frequently asked questions:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA/MGS/MOLA Science Team, FU Berlin.

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Expedition 53 Crewmates Return to Earth From S…

ROSCOSMOS – Soyuz MS-05 Mission patch.

Dec. 14, 2017

Three crew members who have been living and working aboard the International Space Station returned to Earth on Thursday, landing in Kazakhstan after opening a new chapter in the scientific capability of humanity’s premier microgravity laboratory.

Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos landed at 3:37 a.m. EST (2:37 p.m. Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Image above: The Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian space agency Roscosmos in Kazakhstan on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Bresnik, Nespoli and Ryazanskiy are returning after 138 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 52 and 53 crews aboard the International Space Station. Photo Credits: (NASA/Bill Ingalls).

Together, the Expedition 53 crew members contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, as well as Earth and other physical sciences aboard the orbiting laboratory. Their time aboard marked the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment of the International Space Station from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research on the station.

Highlights from the research conducted while they were aboard include investigations of microgravity’s effect on the antibiotic resistance of E. coli, a bacterial pathogen responsible for urinary tract infection in humans and animals;  growing larger versions of an important protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease; and delivering a new instrument to address fundamental science questions on the origins and history of cosmic rays.

Paolo thumbs up. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The trio also welcomed three cargo spacecraft delivering several tons of supplies and research experiments. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at station in November as the company’s eighth commercial resupply mission. One Russian ISS Progress cargo craft docked to the station in October. And a SpaceX Dragon completed its commercial resupply mission to station in August, the company’s twelfth resupply mission.

During his time on the orbital complex, Bresnik ventured outside the confines of the space station for three spacewalks. Along with NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, Bresnik lead a trio of spacewalks to replace one of two latching end effectors on the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2. They also spent time lubricating the newly replaced Canadarm2 end effector and replacing cameras on the left side of the station’s truss and the right side of the station’s U.S. Destiny laboratory.

Ryazanskiy conducted one spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin in August to deploy several nanosatellites, collect research samples, and perform structural maintenance.

The Expedition 54 crew continues operating the station, with Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos in command. Along with crewmates Mark Vende Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA, the three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), are scheduled to launch Sunday, Dec. 17 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. NASA Television will broadcast the launch and docking:

Related links:

Microgravity’s effect on the antibiotic resistance of E. coli:

Protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease:

Origins and history of cosmic rays:

Expedition 53:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tabatha Thompson/Allard Beutel/JSC/Dan Huot.

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Nasa’s AI-assisted Exoplanet Discovery: …

Nasa’s AI-assisted Exoplanet Discovery: for the first time ever, an eighth planet has been discovered around another star, tying the Kepler-90 system with our solar system for most number of planets!

Mars Mission Sheds Light on Habitability of Di…

NASA – MAVEN Mission patch.

December 14, 2017

How long might a rocky, Mars-like planet be habitable if it were orbiting a red dwarf star? It’s a complex question but one that NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission can help answer.

“The MAVEN mission tells us that Mars lost substantial amounts of its atmosphere over time, changing the planet’s habitability,” said David Brain, a MAVEN co-investigator and a professor at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder. “We can use Mars, a planet that we know a lot about, as a laboratory for studying rocky planets outside our solar system, which we don’t know much about yet.”

Image above: This illustration depicts charged particles from a solar storm stripping away charged particles of Mars’ atmosphere, one of the processes of Martian atmosphere loss studied by NASA’s MAVEN mission, beginning in 2014. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field that could deflect charged particles emanating from the Sun. Image credits: NASA/GSFC.

At the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Dec. 13, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana, Brain described how insights from the MAVEN mission could be applied to the habitability of rocky planets orbiting other stars.

MAVEN carries a suite of instruments that have been measuring Mars’ atmospheric loss since November 2014. The studies indicate that Mars has lost the majority of its atmosphere to space over time through a combination of chemical and physical processes. The spacecraft’s instruments were chosen to determine how much each process contributes to the total escape.

In the past three years, the Sun has gone through periods of higher and lower solar activity, and Mars also has experienced solar storms, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These varying conditions have given MAVEN the opportunity to observe Mars’ atmospheric escape getting cranked up and dialed down.

Brain and his colleagues started to think about applying these insights to a hypothetical Mars-like planet in orbit around some type of M-star, or red dwarf, the most common class of stars in our galaxy.

The researchers did some preliminary calculations based on the MAVEN data. As with Mars, they assumed that this planet might be positioned at the edge of the habitable zone of its star. But because a red dwarf is dimmer overall than our Sun, a planet in the habitable zone would have to orbit much closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun.

The brightness of a red dwarf at extreme ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths combined with the close orbit would mean that the hypothetical planet would get hit with about 5 to 10 times more UV radiation than the real Mars does. That cranks up the amount of energy available to fuel the processes responsible for atmospheric escape. Based on what MAVEN has learned, Brain and colleagues estimated how the individual escape processes would respond to having the UV cranked up.

Their calculations indicate that the planet’s atmosphere could lose 3 to 5 times as many charged particles, a process called ion escape. About 5 to 10 times more neutral particles could be lost through a process called photochemical escape, which happens when UV radiation breaks apart molecules in the upper atmosphere.

Image above: To receive the same amount of starlight as Mars receives from our Sun, a planet orbiting an M-type red dwarf would have to be positioned much closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun. Image credits: NASA/GSFC.

Because more charged particles would be created, there also would be more sputtering, another form of atmospheric loss. Sputtering happens when energetic particles are accelerated into the atmosphere and knock molecules around, kicking some of them out into space and sending others crashing into their neighbors, the way a cue ball does in a game of pool.

Finally, the hypothetical planet might experience about the same amount of thermal escape, also called Jeans escape. Thermal escape occurs only for lighter molecules, such as hydrogen. Mars loses its hydrogen by thermal escape at the top of the atmosphere. On the exo-Mars, thermal escape would increase only if the increase in UV radiation were to push more hydrogen to the top of the atmosphere.

Altogether, the estimates suggest that orbiting at the edge of the habitable zone of a quiet M-class star, instead of our Sun, could shorten the habitable period for the planet by a factor of about 5 to 20. For an M-star whose activity is amped up like that of a Tasmanian devil, the habitable period could be cut by a factor of about 1,000 – reducing it to a mere blink of an eye in geological terms. The solar storms alone could zap the planet with radiation bursts thousands of times more intense than the normal activity from our Sun.

However, Brain and his colleagues have considered a particularly challenging situation for habitability by placing Mars around an M-class star. A different planet might have some mitigating factors – for example, active geological processes that replenish the atmosphere to a degree, a magnetic field to shield the atmosphere from stripping by the stellar wind, or a larger size that gives more gravity to hold on to the atmosphere.

MAVEN spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

“Habitability is one of the biggest topics in astronomy, and these estimates demonstrate one way to leverage what we know about Mars and the Sun to help determine the factors that control whether planets in other systems might be suitable for life,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’s principal investigator at the University of Colorado Boulder.

MAVEN’s principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Boulder. The university provided two science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the MAVEN project and provided two science instruments for the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Exploration Program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

For more information about MAVEN, visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/GSFC/Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky.

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